By Sunny Ikhioya
THE Nigerian entertainment industry is bubbling despite the deplorable state of the nation’s economy. Yes, against all odds entertainers still manage to bring smiles to the faces of Nigerians. And they can be very ingenious with it. At a recent event organised by one of the country’s top comedians, he used google, an internet search engine, to spice up his jokes. He said: “When you google the word ‘idiot’ on the net, the name Donald Trump will pop up.” He went further to say ‘I don’t care’ will pop up in reference to Muhammadu Buhari. And by way of saying no harm is meant through their jokes, they (comedians) will usually tell their audience that: ‘it is a joke o’!
The crux of the matter here is the perceived “I don’t care syndrome” that is festering at the leadership level of the country. Whether people are dying through acts of terrorism, whether our youths are leaving the country in droves, whether people are suffering, whether the anti-corruption fight is perceived to be skewed towards hounding certain individuals, whether appointments favour particular regions and interest groups, and whether the opposition shouts to high heaven, the response is: ‘I don’t care’.
When we talk about equity and fairness in a country that is constitutionally secular, it will not be right to have this kind of perception about the leadership in the country. ‘ I don’t care’ is when you do not take the feelings of your countrymen into consideration in your decision-making process. ‘I don’t care’ is when no action is taken when a governor who belongs to your party is caught on camera collecting wads of currency as kick back. ‘I don’t care’ is when a clear case for prosecution is established against one of your own and you do nothing, as in the case of Lawal Babachir.
‘I don’t care’ is when a minister, from a certain part of the country, resigns and replacement is with someone from areas that already have their full representation in the cabinet, as it happened to Kemi Adeosun from Ogun State. ‘I don’t care’ is when hundreds are being massacred in the land and you choose to comfortably go out to campaign in other areas as it happened in Zamfara and Akwa Ibom states. ‘I don’t care’ is when the people, either opposition political parties or the generality of the people, are complaining of a particular appointment, an appointment that can taint the credibility of a process and you turn a deaf ear.
‘I don’t care’, if not checked, can taint the credibility of the forthcoming elections. Some say that it is a virtue to disregard people’s feelings by standing firm on your convictions. Others see it as symbol of strength, hubris. The praise singers are goading him on. And so, while people are suffering and dying, some are saying that it is okay, since the killings and sufferings did not start with this government. And you wonder if this is the appropriate response to the situation. For a government that came in under the popular sentiment of bringing succour- change to the people, it is amazing how low it has sunk.
The strength of a leader is in his meekness, his ability to lead bottom-up or what is commonly referred to as servant leadership. President Buhari has been in leadership position before and he knows what praise-singing can do to a leader. He experienced it when he was toppled by General Ibrahim Babangida and his group. He knew how people reacted when he left government. It will be very unfortunate if on his second outing he has not learnt from that experience.
Every time Amina Zakari’s name has come up for appointment by the Buhari government, there has always been opposition and outcry against it. That is why it is a surprise that the people making decision for the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, keep doing the same thing.
We do not lack human capital in any area of endeavour in this country. There are very many capable hands that can do the job. It is, therefore, inappropriate for us to be wasting so much time, energy and resources on a single individual. The question to ask is: why must it be Amina Zakari? The Presidency has come out to say that they are not related but “an inter-marriage occurred in their extended families.” Is this not a ground for objection? The issue should not even be whether Amina Zakari is related to President Buhari or not, but on the basis that there has been a controversial appointment since she was first made acting head of INEC after the departure of Professor Attahiru Jega.
Also, since she worked as a principal staff in Buhari’s PTF, it behoves the authorities to consider these sentiments because appointments must be untainted in whatever form. If there is any doubt therefore, as in the case of Amina, such appointment should be reversed. Given the criticisms and protests that have trailed that decision, the INEC leadership and the Presidency should not allow Amina to head the central collation unit of INEC as that will be doing grave injustice to the credibility of the elections.
As someone once said: “The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything”. That is why, in an election process, everything must be transparent. It should not be about individuals but the process and procedures. The rules must be followed and persons to be appointed into INEC positions must have no sentimental baggage for any reason.
As a person, Amina could be a very honest, devoted, intelligent, hardworking and competent, but the fact that she is remotely related or acquainted to one of the principal candidates contesting for position in the election, makes her unsuitable for the assignment. Amina Zakari should be removed from that position immediately and replaced with someone else, preferably someone from the Southern part of the country.